Feodor Ivanovich Chaliapin was a Russian opera singer. The possessor of a large and expressive bass voice, he enjoyed an international career and is often credited with establishing the tradition of naturalistic acting in his chosen art form.
During the first phase of his career, Chaliapin endured direct competition from three other great basses: the powerful Lev Sibiriakov, the more lyrical Vladimir Kastorsky, and Dmitri Buchtoyarov, whose voice lay between the extremes exemplified by Sibiriakov and Kastorsky. The fact that Chaliapin is far and away the best remembered of this magnificent quartet of rival basses testifies to the magnetic power of his personality, the acuteness of his musical interpretations and the vividness of his performances.
He himself spelled his surname Chaliapine in the West, and his name even appeared on early HMV 78s as Theodore Chaliapine. However, the given name is most usually seen as Feodor or Fyodor, and the surname is most usually seen as Chaliapin. It is sometimes seen in a strict romanisation as Shalyapin.
Feodor Chaliapin was born into a peasant family on February 1 1873 in Kazan, in the wing of merchant Lisitzin’s house on Rybnoryadskaya Street 10. This wing no longer exists, but the house with the yard where the wing was situated is still there. The next day, Candlemas, he was baptized in Epiphany Church on Bolshaya Prolomnaya street. His godparents were the neighbors: the shoemaker Nikolay Tonkov and 12-year-old girl Ludmila Kharitonova. The dwelling was expensive for his father, Ivan Yakovlevich, who served as a clerk in the Zemskaya Uprava, and in 1878 the Chaliapin family moved to the village Ametyevo behind the area of Sukonnaya Sloboda, and settled in a small house.